I saw this tag on Kristin Kraves Books (the original creator is Peace, Love, Veggies), and decided to give it a go because astrology is a fascinating esoteric study area (I am a Scorpio, btw). Each of the twelve zodiac signs has its own core personality description, and the headings below roughly reflect these descriptions. For example, the Libra sign is associated with balance in life, and, therefore, below is a request to name a book that is neither good nor bad (an equilibrium between good and bad is reached), and the sign of Leo is associated with power, pride and bravery, and, thus, there is a request below to name courageous characters in a book. As usual, I am not tagging anyone in particular, and everyone is welcome to participate.
I. ARIES – Name a book you’ve read that was full of fire, desire, and passion
Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) by Laura Esquivel
When I think about boundless passion in books, this book by Mexican author Laura Esquivel just pops into my head instantly. Pedro and Tita’s forbidden love in this story is electrifying, and this story is about cooking and delicious food, too (Mexican recipes are included).
II. TAURAS – Name a book that was beautifully-written
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
I recall that this book was beautifully-written (the first sentence alone left me almost breathless). Unlike some others, I think this book is a worthy winner of the Man Booker Prize, and I also enjoyed reading Brookner’s insights into each of the characters in her story.
III. GEMINI – Name a book that you’ve read that featured twins
The Separation by Christopher Priest
This book is about a pair of identical male twins – one of them ends up to be a RAF pilot during the WWII and another a conscientious objector who works for the Red Cross. How their destinies evolve as they fall in love with the same Jewish woman is the focus of the story. Priest’s books are always thought-provoking, and I enjoy his play with the theme of identity confusion. However, I do not always like how Priest executes his big ideas on paper, and, in The Separation, I did not enjoy all the digressions and found the main characters’ motivations in the story very puzzling.
IV. CANCER – Name a book you read that was a real tear-jerker
Tess of the D‘Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
I talked about one real tear-jerker already – Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, so I thought I would mention Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles – not because it is especially a tear-jerker, but because the main heroine’s plight there is very sad and, thus, the story comes off as rather emotional. Beautifully-written, plotted and characterised, Tess of the D’Urbervilles is one of my many five-star classic reads.
V. LEO – Name a book that you’ve read that features courageous characters
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
I will not forget the bravery of the characters in News of the World, a National Book Award Finalist. Though elderly and removed from daily fighting, Captain Kidd shows a lot of bravery in trying to save one small girl from a horrible plight. He and Johanna make a team which is hard to forget, being so courageous as a unit. Hats off to Paulette Jiles for making her novel so heart-warming and enjoyable to read.
VI. VIRGO – A book that is pure perfection
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
This book is pure perfection. Full stop. I cannot put into words the brilliance of this book. Is it the greatest novel ever written? Yes, I think it is. Anna Karenina, Alexei Vronsky, Nikolai Levin, Kitty Shcherbatskaya…many memorable characters and a very powerful love story.
VII. LIBRA – Name a book that you read that was neither good nor bad
Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates
Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road is my favourite book of all time and I consider it a masterpiece. However, I was largely indifferent to this book of his – Disturbing the Peace (I honestly lost interest half way through the book), though I still enjoyed (somewhat) the prose, and Yates’ ideas. Disturbing the Peace tells of John C. Wilder, whose life starts spinning out of control as his interest in family life plummets, and his interest in alcohol and other women grows.
VIII. SCORPIO – Name a book you read that was dark or mysterious
Sulphuric Acid by Amelie Nothomb
Sulphuric Acid may be short, but it is very dark because the novella deals with a horrifying dystopian future where people gather around in their living rooms to watch one disturbing programme – Concentration. This programme recreates a Nazi-style concentration camp (but with all the cameras watching) and uses real people as participants. Amelie Nothomb is a new author for me, and I cannot wait to read her other books.
IX. SAGITTARIUS – Name a book that you read that was full of adventure
The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak
This book by Elif Shafak (also the author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World (2019)) is certainly full of adventure. Set in medieval Istanbul (the Ottoman Empire), the story tells of Jahan, a carer of his white elephant Chota, who arrives to serve under the Sultan at the palace and becomes an apprentice to the head architect (Sinan). It was an interesting read, but I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would (for example, I found the characters caricaturish and I thought the book attempted too much). The plot was too episodic for me, too, and I found it strangely derivative. The novel has a great atmosphere, but it also reminded me of Aladdin, One Thousand and One Nights (a story within a story), and especially of the book The Sea Cathedral by Ildefonso Falcones (an unattainable love interest and the construction of a religious building being some of many similar themes).
X. CAPRICORN – Name a book that you read that made you think
Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics by Jim Al-Khalili
Of course, a non-fiction book will be under this heading because I love to read “brainy” non-fiction once in awhile. I am fascinated by paradoxes, and this book made me think hard about some of the greatest mysteries in physics. My only complaint is that I thought the book was too simply written – those who have very little understanding of physics will enjoy it, but I also thought the author did not fully explain certain concepts. My favourite chapter is the one on “Schrodinger’s Cat”.
XI. AQUARIUS – Name a book that you’ve read that was quirky
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
This book is the definition of quirkiness, and I do not think I have ever read something as unusual as the plot in this one. The narrative of this debut novel focuses on one man’s mind while that man is on his lunch break at work. For example, the man thinks about his shoelaces, his suit, a book that he currently reads, and about things that he has just bought from a supermarket. This is an original story (or rather a non-story) and may prove satisfying for those who do not mind many digressions in their books and an excessive use of footnotes. This book is about everyday existence when we focus all our attention on mundane happenings around us and on everyday objects.
XII. PISCES – Name a book that you read that was very imaginative
The Islanders by Christopher Priest
This was my third book by Christopher Priest and I found it very imaginative, even if I did not fully connect with the story or appreciated fully its travelogue nature. It reminded me of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, because the story here is all about a person making topographic descriptions of islands on one strange planet (while we also get to know a bit about particular inhabitants of these islands, their way of life and their actions).